The education ministry on Wednesday launched plans to provide schools with a large number of low income families extra cash to pay for free lunches for all pupils.
Schools where at least 30% of the pupils come from poorer families can register for the funding. In total the government has set aside €100 million to fund the scheme, which will cover some 300,000 primary and secondary school pupils.
Schools can decide themselves if they want to provide breakfast or lunch, or fill a fridge with healthy snacks so children can help themselves. The payout is around €9 per child per week.
Volunteers will be drafted in to shop and make the sandwiches or schools can bring in an outside catering company, the education ministry said. The meals will be open to all pupils so as not to differentiate between children.
Alternatively, schools can opt to provide the very poorest families with a Red Cross food cheque worth €11, which can be used any supermarket. This is likely to be the preferred option at secondary schools, where there is no set lunch time, the ministry said.
The project will be organised on a school by school basis via the Red Cross and education fund Jeugdeducatiefonds so that teaching staff don’t face further pressure. The organisers will also provide advice on healthy eating, with suggested menus.
‘Eating properly means learning properly,’ schools minister Dennis Wiersma told NPO radio.
Trials in which free breakfasts were provided at 500 primary schools were successful Wiersma said. ‘School breakfasts really make a difference,’ he said. ‘Pupils have more energy and can concentrate better.’
The programme will run initially for a year.
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